the baker upstairs: January 2014

1.31.2014

nutella cream puffs

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I know, I know… two healthy recipes earlier this week, and then I throw these decadent cream puffs at you. I really can't help myself though! These cream puffs are so delicious! It just wouldn't be fair to make them and then not share them with the world. I think these would be the perfect dessert to share with someone you love this time of year!


The pastry itself is very simple and straightforward, and the Nutella whipped cream couldn't be easier. This is one of those desserts that looks like it takes a million years and is super complicated, but is instead incredibly easy! It took me about an hour total to make these, and that includes the time I was waiting for the puffs to cool.


Oh, man, these are good! Make them for your family and you'll love them like I do!

Nutella Cream Puffs

for the pastry:
1 cup water
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour
4 eggs

for the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 cup Nutella

for the chocolate drizzle:
3/4 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon coconut oil or shortening

Preheat oven to 400. Bring the water and butter to a boil over medium high heat, and stir until butter is completely melted. Remove from heat and stir in flour until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan and forms a ball. Add eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition, until the mixture is smooth and satiny. Drop scoops of dough (or pipe rounds if you want them to be prettier) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone liner. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until the puffs are golden and puffed up. Puffs are done when they are hollow inside. Remove from oven and let cool on a cooling rack.

While the puffs are cooling, whip the cream using a stand mixer or hand mixer. When the cream forms stiff peaks beat in the powdered sugar until combined. Add the Nutella and beat until light and fluffy. Cut cooled puffs in half horizontally and fill with whipped cream.

To make the drizzle, add the chocolate chips and coconut oil to a microwave safe bowl. Heat at 50% power for one minute and stir. Continue heating for thirty second intervals at 50% power until melted and smooth. Pour the chocolate into a ziploc bag or piping bag and cut a small piece off the corner of the bag. Drizzle over the filled cream puffs. Store cream puffs in the refrigerator.

1.30.2014

teriyaki chicken stir fry

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I know you've seen a lot of desserts from me lately (like these amazing salted caramel chocolate chip cookie bars, or these funfetti sugar cookies) but really we eat pretty healthy food most of the time around here. Because we're both so busy most days, quick and healthy meals like this are a must! My girls are crazy about broccoli right now (I know, I can't believe it either!) and so I've been trying to come up with meals that include their favorite of all vegetables. This meal was a hit with the girls (although they did pick out all of the peppers and make gagging noises over them) and Geoff and I loved it too. It's a delicious, colorful, and healthy weeknight meal! It paired very nicely with the baked brown rice that I made and was filling but still light.

I think this stir fry would work well with any variety of vegetables, and I'm excited to try it with some of my favorites like zucchini and snap peas. I would suggest prepping everything you will need before you start cooking the chicken, so it all be easy and quick to put together. (I'll confess that I got a little frantic trying to get everything ready at once while the chicken was cooking, and it would have been way easier if I had just prepped everything first. C'est la vie.) All in all, this meal was a total win!

Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

stir fry:
20 ounce can pineapple chunks, drained (juice reserved)
1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tablespoon corn starch
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon oil, more as needed
2 cups broccoli florets
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced (I used a combination of red and orange)
1/4 cup reserved pineapple juice

sauce:
1/2 cup reserved pineapple juice
1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 clove garlic finely minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger or 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
2 teaspoons corn starch

Slice the chicken breast into thin strips. Place the strips in a bowl and toss with corn starch and salt and pepper. Set aside while you prepare the vegetables. Whisk all sauce ingredients together and set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Fry the chicken for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through and lightly browned (this should be quick if your chicken is thin). You may need to cook the chicken in two batches to prevent crowding the pan. Remove the cooked chicken to a plate. Add the broccoli, red pepper, pineapple, and pineapple juice to the hot skillet, cover, and let the vegetables steam 2-3 minutes, or until crisp-tender. Remove the cover and add the cooked chicken back to the skillet. Whisk the sauce to combine and then pour over the chicken and vegetables. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Simmer 2-3 minutes, or until sauce is thickened. Serve over rice and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.

1.29.2014

irish scones

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Today is my first contributor post for I Heart Nap Time and I'm sharing these Irish scones! Scones are one of my favorite breakfast foods (especially slathered in jam and dolloped with whipped cream!) and I'm excited to share my favorite scone recipe with all of you. Click here to check them out!

1.27.2014

fluffy baked brown rice

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I'm going to confess right now - before I made this recipe for the first time, I was a brown rice hater. I know it's way better for you than white rice, and it has all sorts of fiber and vitamins and whatnot, but I've never found it to be terribly appetizing. Until I discovered this recipe, and all that changed! Now, every time I make brown rice, it is fluffy and delicious! I also like that it's so incredibly easy to make! Sure, it takes a little time to bake, but it is seriously zero effort. It takes less than five minutes to put together, and then bakes just a little over an hour into a big pan of fluffy goodness.

I'm not going to lie and say that it's exactly like white rice, because it's not. But considering how much better it is for you, and how easy it is to swap for white rice, this recipe is a definite win! My girls ate it with no complaints (which is always the big test for me!) and even Geoff (who resents me "healthifying" his food most of the time) was perfectly happy to enjoy brown rice instead of white rice with his chicken teriyaki stir fry (recipe coming soon!). We're still working on our goal of feeding our kids better food, and I think this brown rice is a perfect step in that direction!

Fluffy Baked Brown Rice
adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe

1 1/2 cups brown rice
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (or 2 1/2 cups water and 1-2 teaspoons salt)

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9 x 9 pan with cooking spray. Add rice and broth, and stir to combine. Cover tightly with a double layer of foil and bake 70 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed (you may need to adjust the cooking time plus or minus 5-10 minutes). Remove from oven and let sit five minutes, then fluff with a fork. Enjoy!

1.23.2014

soft funfetti sugar cookies

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Oh, my, these cookies are wonderful! They're soft and fat little bites of deliciousness. I love sugar cookies, but I'm usually more of the rolled-out-cookie persuasion. These cookies were enough to change my mind on that front, though! The sprinkles throughout make them extra fun, too. I made them a few evenings ago after the kids were in bed, and when Abby came out of her room and saw them in the morning, her jaw dropped open and she squealed, "Sprinkles!!!! In my cookies!!!!" Who wouldn't be excited by that?


These cookies have a delicious buttery flavor and are moist and soft while still holding together well. They're quick and easy to make, and use simple, basic ingredients. I'm a bit of a rebel so I disregarded some of the directions in the original recipe (they're a little fussy) and they still turned out great! I know a lot of people like their very precise methods and measurements, but I like to cook more by feel and intuition. And so far, I would say it works pretty great for me. :) I'll keep using my salted butter and scooping my flour with the measuring cup and refusing to chill dough, thanks. (Please no hate mail.)


Soft Funfetti Sugar Cookies
adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction (go check out her drool-inducing site!)

1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended. Add flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar, and mix until a dough forms. Fold in sprinkles until well distributed. Shape into 12 equal sized balls. If your dough is fairly soft, I would recommend chilling it at this point for about 30 minutes. If your dough is thick (like mine was), bake in the preheated oven for exactly 8 minutes. Remove and let cool 5-10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to a cooling rack. The cookies will look very soft and undercooked when you pull them out, but they will cook more as they cool on the pan. Enjoy!

1.20.2014

30 minute homemade jam

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Homemade jam is one of my very favorite things to make. I have some in the freezer pretty much all the time! I don't think my girls have ever even had store-bought jam, since the homemade stuff is so much better. I love to use the low-sugar pectin because I feel like the flavor of the fruit really shines through and it is so much tastier! Not to mention it's better for you too… it's a win-win!

If you have ever wanted to make jam before and felt too intimidated, have no fear! I took pictures all along the way this time, so I could share them with you. I've labeled this thirty minute jam, but really it took me about twenty minutes to make, start to finish. And it seriously couldn't be easier.

Step 1: Fruit!


I've made jam with lots of different fruits… peaches, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, apricots, you name it! They're all pretty awesome. Some of my favorites have been combinations of fruit; strawberry-peach is super rad, as is any combination of berries. For this jam, I decided to use about 2/3 blackberries and 1/3 strawberries (because that's what I had in my fridge threatening to go bad). Wash your fruit and drain it well.

Step 2: Chop/pulse/mash the fruit!


I used to be fanatical about chopping the fruit and making sure all the pieces were the exact same size, and then I discovered how easy it is to just pulse it in the food processor. I don't like big chunks in my jam anyway, so the food processor/blender works great. Just pulse it until it's broken up into small pieces (but don't puree it - you want some chunks). Here is what mine looked like when I was done pulsing:


If you don't have a food processor or blender, you can also chop the fruit and then use a potato masher to mush it up a little. Either way works great!

Step 3: Add pectin and cook!


I really love this low sugar pectin, especially because it comes in the container instead of in a packet, so I can measure out the exact amount I need. (I'm not being paid by Ball, by the way, I just really love their product!) Add the liquid you're using (I used water this time, but I usually use unsweetened apple juice) and the pectin, and stir until it's smooth. Heat, stirring constantly, over medium high heat until it reaches a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down (this usually only takes a few minutes for me). Add sugar all at once, bring back to a boil, and let boil for one minute. Remove from heat.

Step 4: Ladle into clean jars!


I like to do freezer jam instead of canned jam for a few reasons. First, it's waaaaay faster and doesn't involve turning my kitchen into a sauna with the steam from the canner. Second, I feel like the jam stays fresher in the freezer. It keeps the same beautiful color and fresh flavor that it has right after you make it. Really, either way works fine, and if you want to use the water bath canner, go right ahead. You can find good directions for that here. If you want to take the easy route like me, just ladle your jam into clean jars (or even plastic containers), leaving 1/4-1/2 inch of space at the top of the container. Cover with clean lids and bands, and refrigerate overnight, then freeze. To use, thaw in the fridge overnight.


Happy jam making!
30 Minute Homemade Jam
adapted from freshpreserving.com

1 1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
2 1/2 cups blackberries
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice or water
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoon low sugar pectin
1/2 - 3/4 cup sugar (depending on the sweetness of your fruit)

Wash fruit and drain well. Pulse fruit in a blender or food processor until it is mashed into small chunks. (You can also cut the fruit into small pieces and use a potato masher to mash it up a little.) You should end up with about 2 cups of mashed fruit total. Pour fruit into a medium saucepan and add juice or water. Gradually stir in pectin and mix well. Heat, stirring constantly, over medium high heat until it reaches a full rolling boil that can't be stirred down. Add sugar all at once and stir well. Return to a boil, stirring frequently, and boil one minute. Remove from heat and ladle into clean containers. Store in refrigerator overnight, then freeze. Makes 3 half-pint jars (or 3 cups total).

1.17.2014

nine cookies from one amazing recipe!

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I'm sure it's obvious by now, but I seriously can't get enough of these cookies! Chocolate chip cookies are my very favorite, and this recipe is by far the best I've tried. I've said it before, but I love how adaptable it is!

You can start with a basic chocolate chip cookie...

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies

And move on to an even easier to make cookie bar...

Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

And if you're feeling a little adventurous, here are some other delicious ways to mix things up!

Browned Butter & Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

Cracker Jack Chocolate Chunk Cookies


Double Chocolate M&M Cookie Bars

Almond Joy Cookie Bars

Almond Chocolate Chunk Cookies

These last cookies I posted yesterday, and they top the list as my very favorite. They're like everything I ever wanted in a cookie (and more!)

Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

Happy chocolate chip cookie making to you!

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